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Archive for December, 2007

Mr. Dodd goes to Washington

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

How did the Washington papers cover Presidental candidate Dodd’s threat to filibuster the proposed law giving the telecom companies retroactive immunity for breaking the law and illegally spying on Americans? Dodd was able to get the bill delayed at least until January, one of the biggest victories for civil liberties this year.

The NYT has it on page A29.

Washington Post has a story on page A2, but written so you can’t tell what happened. Dodd is described as fighting the bill, but his crucial role is not described. Reid’s extraordinary effort to pass a bill that included telecom immunity, bypassing normal senate rules, working hand-in-hand with the Bush administration and Dodd’s single-handed stand against it aren’t described.

It’s a scene out of the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”! Updated slightly–there’s no free paper trying to print the news so we are spared the sight of NYT thugs beating kids, and the A29 mention allows the NYT to claim they ‘covered’ the story.

Those old science fiction stories predict the future remarkably well, but the details are always slightly off. :)

Presidential election–talking about the challenges ahead

Monday, December 17th, 2007

The next President is going to have enormous challenges. And not just the typical ones that make being US President such a big, all-consuming job. I mean when done right, of course. The Bush years have shown that a monkey can sit in the chair and the US will muddle through. But the problems Bush created, the problems the Republicans ignored, and a heap of new challenges will confront the next President.

The next President will have to fix what the Republicans have screwed up. Let’s only consider first the federal budget. The budget is $250 billion out of balance. And the $4 trillion in debt added over the Bush years have debt payments sucking up an even larger share of the federal budget. The Iraq occupation is has an ongoing cost in lives and $150 billion a year (plus a similar amount in deferred costs).

The US army is pinned down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Growing US medical costs need to be dealt with, and the US is out of simple fixes, and running out of time to ignore the problem. We need to change how the US health care system is run.

The economy is heading into a recession.

The world is at peak oil. Oil will get more expensive every year. Likely oil prices will rise slowly for a next 2-3 years as world production stays constant while demand rises. Then it gets worse as world production starts to fall 5% a year and oil gets *really* expensive and/or shortages develop. Natural gas is running short as well.

Global warming needs to be addressed with carbon cuts. This will require restructuring the US energy economy, a huge undertaking. Funnily, lucky chance, peak oil will help reduce oil usage, but the US will need to start replacing coal power plants with something more expensive.

That’s a huge set of problems, each presenting a big political challenge, but many of them combined technological/natural disaster/political problems that each individually would be a once in a generation problem.

I have listed these problems not to depress people, but to make a point that the next Presidency will not be business as usual, four years similar to the last decade or two. The next President needs to start making the challenge clear to start building political support for the required effort. And yet none of the Dem candidates have done this.

They need to do this, start making the size and nature of the problems clear to the US people. Talking about them, providing people with the background and showing them where things are heading. Of course detailed proposals can’t be offered yet, but the candidates can sketch out the problems and what give people a notion of how the US can deal with them.

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Things click into place

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

It’s recently come out that National Review Online (the US’s top Republican political magazine) published fake reporting of massive (and apparently imaginary) Hezbollah invasions into the Christian section of Beirut written by reporter W. Thomas Smith Jr.

He also wrote The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Intelligent Design. Who could have guessed he wasn’t a reliable source of information?

It gets even funnier. The publisher-supplied description on Amazon says the book was “Written by an expert in the field”. Ha! Neither one of them is a biologist. And better yet, Smith is described there as having written “thousands of articles for a variety of publications”. Which comes to more than two a week, for twenty years straight. Sounds like exaggeration, though this time written by the publisher.